Jigging Walleyes 102.
by Adam Johnson
In Jigging Walleyes 101 we learned the importance of equipment in jig
fishing walleyes. Choosing the proper rod balanced by a smooth running
reel loaded with good, abrasion resistant line is a key first step.
Selecting color and matching to water clarity is next. Knowing how to
make just the right presentation to trigger a good bite is third, and
understanding location and boat control completes the package.
and boat control will be covered in the next of the series, Jigging
Jig fishing for walleyes is one of the most versatile and effective ways
of catching fish. Jigging works in all waters, in just about every
lake, river or stream and in virtually all conditions. There are as
many different ways to present jigs as there are jigs, but knowing the
right presentation to use given the conditions you are fishing is vital
Jigs work well with almost all types of live bait and can
be fished successfully with artificials, but again you need to give some
thought to the mood of the fish, the time of the year, depth, structure,
cover, water clarity, weather conditions, current and a host of other
factors that may influence your decision.
Shapes and Rattles
All jigs are not created equal. As was pointed out in Jigging for
Walleyes 101 the quality of the hook and the color and durability of the
paint are extremely important factors in jig selection.
In this regard,
I’ve found that Scenic Tackle jigs are best. They have high quality
hooks and the most durable paint on the market. It is also true that
some styles of jigs work better than others in different conditions.
Here are some examples.
- Pyramid or cone shaped jig heads work best in weeds and timber. These
jigs slither through the cover without getting hung up. They are able
to get down into the thickest cover without fouling, which is obviously
important in keeping your jig in the strike zone longer.
- Bullet shaped
jig heads work best in current. These jigs offer less resistance,
allowing the current to flow around the jig. The net result is that you
are able to fish more vertically with lighter jigs, always a plus in
jigging big ‘eyes.
- Aspirin-shaped jigs (vertically flattened) are best
used in rocks. They tend not to wedge into crevices and slide through
little spaces that would catch and eat jigs of other shapes. As such,
these jigs can be fished over rocks without having to re-tie as often
because of rock snags.
- Stand up jigs work well in rocks and hard bottom
areas, like sand, because they hold the hook off the bottom, keeping the
bait up in the fish’s line of sight. They also help keep the hook out
of the rocks and keep the bait up out of crevices.
- Round jig heads, the
most traditional and most widely used jig, are the best all around.
These jigs work well in all bottom conditions and can be used in heavy
cover, although they are not ideally suited for these conditions.
In stained water it may help to add a rattle to the jig. This
additional feature helps the fish locate the jig and may trigger a bite
that you would otherwise miss. Experimentation here is important to
trigger the bite you are after.
Jig Size…Key to a Natural Presentation
The key to successful jig fishing walleyes is to use the lightest jig
A good guideline to begin with is to use a jig weighing 1/8
ounce for every 10 feet of water fished. In other words, in early,
shallow water fishing conditions where fish are generally found in 10
feet of water or less, 1/8 ounce is the place to start. Later, as fish
move out into water up to 20 feet, start with 1/4 ounce. And in fishing
water greater than 20 feet you may want to consider moving up to 3/8.
Of course these are just general guidelines and a host of factors may
influence your decision, with current and wind conditions being
dominating factors. Remember that contact with the bottom is vital, so
be sure to use just enough jig to allow you to maintain contact with the
When jig fishing the presentation must look as natural as possible. The
jig should fall slowly, making the bait flutter on the fall and keeping
it in the strike zone longer. The jig should not just look like a rock
jumping up and down, but should present the bait naturally. For
example, a jig minnow combination should make the minnow appear to be
wounded, fluttering on the drop and darting or turning on the rise.
The size of the jig should be chosen to allow you to fish as vertically
as possible. This gives you the best feel and allows the best control
over the presentation. The shortest line possible makes the
presentation most sensitive, which is a key element in successful jig
fishing. Feel and sensitivity are what make jig fishing work.
Jigs can be successfully tipped with all types of live bait or
artificials. Live bait is most often used with minnows, leeches or
crawlers the bait of choice. Typically, minnows work all year and work
better than leeches or crawlers when the water is cold.
type of minnow selected is your choice, but should be chosen to most
relate to natural walleye forage. In some bodies of water, leeches are
the bait of choice even in cold water conditions, and as the season
progresses crawlers may out fish either minnows or leeches. So, again,
experimentation is the key.
Early in the year, I tend to bring leeches
and minnows and will add crawlers to the cooler as the weather warms up.
Soft body artificials, like curly-tailed grubs, paddle-tail minnow
imitations or jig worms can be used when the fish are active. Even
lizards can be effective, especially in the spring and fall.
Combinations of artificials and live bait can be fished if the walleyes
are aggressive, or in stained water conditions when the larger profile
and vibration from the twister tail may be beneficial.
If fish are biting short, you may want to consider adding a stinger hook
to your live bait set up. When the water is cold, or fish are simply
not aggressive, they may grab and hold the tail end of the bait without
taking it all into their mouth. A stinger hook allows you to catch
these short biting fish.
For jigging in shallow water, casting jigs works well. This technique
allows you to get the jig out away from the boat without spooking fish.
Cast the jig and let it settle to the bottom. Holding your rod at about
9:00 o’clock, lift to about 11:00 o’clock and let it back down to 9:00
o’clock. Keep the rod tip fairly high to keep a good feel with the jig
and follow the line back to the bottom to pick up on any fish biting on
Feel is extremely important in this technique. Any type of
twitch or stop could be a fish, don’t assume it’s rocks or weeds
impeding your progress. This technique works well when fishing the top
of a hump or reef, or when following a jig down the face of a drop off.
The most common method of jig fishing is vertical jigging, which works
especially well when fishing any depths over 6 – 8 feet. When vertical
jigging, start by dropping the jig straight to the bottom keeping the
line as vertical as possible. It is important to maintain good contact
with the bottom to be sure the jig is in the strike zone and not riding
up away from the fish. Lift the jig any where from a couple of inches
to a foot or so and ease it back down to again contact bottom.
fish are aggressive, keep the jig moving by lifting about a foot or so,
dropping and repeating every few seconds. If the fish are less
aggressive, jig slowly and not as high…maybe just an inch or a few
inches. Lower it back to the bottom and hold it there for a while. You
may even want to try not jigging at all. Simply drop the jig to the
bottom, lift a couple of inches and hold.
Again, experimentation is the
way to go. Sometimes dragging, sometimes jigging aggressively until you
find the pattern.
Even swimming the jig can be effective. Run the jig to the bottom and
lift to the depth at which you are seeing fish on the electronics.
Then, simply move the rod tip slowly up and down to make it look like
the jig is swimming at that depth. This technique works for fish that
are not related tight to the bottom or that might be a little less
Jig fishing is the most versatile technique available for hooking up on
big ‘eyes. Remember two things, though, when jigging.
experiment. Color, size, jigging speed, rattles and aggressiveness are
all factors to experiment with.
Second, natural presentation is
extremely important. Make the presentation natural, as small as
possible and tip the jig with natural, or natural looking forage. Keep
these factors in mind and you’ll consistently boat more ‘eyes.
luck and good fishing.
Click here for Jigging Walleyes 103.